Following the surprise release of Niggas on the Moon last month, the polarizing noise/hip-hop duo Death Grips has announced their breakup.
The announcement was made today via a photo of a hand-written note posted onto their Facebook. The only discernible explanation given reads: “We are now at our best and so Death Grips is over.”
As you can see, all future live dates have been canceled, though the upcoming double-album The Powers That B will still see a release this year through Harvest/Thirdworld Records. The first half of the album, Niggas on the Moon, was a collaborative project with avant-pop luminary Bjork, and was released the evening of June 8th completely without warning as a free download, as was their third studio album No Love Deep Web. The guerrilla distribution tactic contributed heavily to the group’s reputation for unpredictability and subversiveness.
The canceled concerts include the Pitchfork Music Festival and an extended tour with Trent Reznor, who took to twitter to voice his disappointment, saying: “sorry everyone… why would I have ever thought those dudes could keep it together?”
Musically, the group has been celebrated for their fusion of glitch/noise and MC Ride’s (Stefan Burnett) particular style of left-field hip-hop, which drew as much inspiration from rap as it did psychedelia and spoken word experiments. Lyrical references and studio samples ran the gamut from Old Dirty Bastard to Pink Floyd to Link Wray. Death Grips has also been known for their explosive live show, featuring Zach Hill’s virtuoso drumming alongside an entranced Ride, and producer Flatlander (Andy Morin) manning the electronics.
But Death Grips has also made headlines both for its illicit release of their third album No Love Deep Web (prompting an ejection from major label Epic Records), and more notably for a series of shows in which the group was conscientiously absent, choosing instead to replace themselves with a mock set-up of Hill’s drum set and a fake suicide note from a fan projected onto the stage. Death Grips released their debut album Exmilitary in 2011, The Money Store and No Love Deep Web in 2012, Government Plates in 2013, and Niggas on the Moon this year.
This being said, I’m rather … cautious as to how seriously this news should be taken. It would be a completely viable prediction to insist that this is yet another stunt on the group’s part, perhaps in preparation for the release of the second half of The Powers that B. If the breakup is indeed a stunt, then one can see it as a repeat of the concert no-shows but on a greater scale, which is an intriguing prospect.
It’s truly a testament to what they’ve accomplished with their enraging shenanigans—I’m of the party that would call their series of planned no-shows ‘art’ in that it changed the way fans perceive their ‘consumer-supplier’ relationship with artists. It used to be that you buy a ticket, you go to the show, you see the show, what could be more basic than that? Isn’t that the rock-solid agreement: that I buy, and so I get? Well, that’s the stress point in the wall of expectations that DG chose to attack.
Suddenly, fans couldn’t be sure at all whether or not the group is going to perform at the scheduled time and place, and in effect, the show becomes an actual event, and the band is no longer seen as ‘indebted’ to paying fans. It assaults that sense of consumerist entitlement, and re-figures patronage as a more profound action of selfless support, as opposed to a cold agreement of quid pro quo. Hence, we can debate endlessly (and uninterestingly) whether their actions breached artistic etiquette too deeply, but to ignore the arisen complexities seems naive.
That being said, it doesn’t matter whether or not this breakup is a stunt, because the damage is already done. I have no idea if Death Grips is truly dead, or if they’re going to burst through my bathroom mirror while I brush my teeth tonight, tomorrow, next year. They might release The Powers That B pt. 7 tomorrow, and parts 1.5 – 6 over the successive months. I am humorously reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s demise: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
By Andrew Tran
Nausea (Captured Tracks)
Indie pop prophet, Justin Vallesteros (aka Craft Spells), has come back from hiatus with an astounding reinvention of his sonic capability.
Craft Spells sophomore release, aptly entitle Nausea, opens with the calm, rippling titular title track “Nausea”. Justin Vallesteros’ vocals echo verse after verse of wistfulness, interspersed with ringing piano chords and an angelically emotional drumbeat. This track would be most fitting as the background to a film montage in which the main character is lost within his own personal monotony, yet to reach the uncomfortable absolute of self actualization and sympathize along side it.This is quickly followed by the placid, spa-like, “Komorebi”. Vallesteros melodically supports the ambient track with dynamic flute riffs and stable piano chords. If ‘Nausea’ was loss, ‘Komorebi’ is resolve – it’s impossible not to think of a dynamic journey of self-discovery accompanied by the layered string bridge and slow, fading outro – our protagonists refuge to find self hasn’t concluded quite yet.
"Changing Faces" provides a smooth mesh of old and new variations on Vallesteros’ pronounced style, floating vocals accompanied by an arsenal of dynamically layered instrumental interludes are integral part of this LP. The minor melodrama of "Changing Faces" segues into a rather unremarkable instrumental track, serving solely as a filter into "Dwindle". A track which is wrought with resonating vocals and a backbone of softly strumming guitars with a slight tribal beat. The lyrics convey a calm resignation, patience in the face of personal confusion. The listener is caught by surprise in "Twirl", perhaps the most Idle Labor-like composition on the album yet. The faithful charisma that has been missing from the album thus far, has returned with a vengeance. Guitars crescendo and swing in the background as a glossier surf/dream pop instrumental mode saturates the chorus, a catchy keyboards solo then lends itself in taking the lead. “I’m spinning and I can’t come down”, Vallesteros sings.
The angst is not suspended for long; the thoughtful “Laughing for my Life” brings back introspection. Spanish-inspired guitar licks accompany a silvery piano piece along a curiously, aggressive, screeching rhythm guitar, backed by unlabored vocals. A reminiscent track that delineates a harmoniously bitter transition into “First Snow”, a composition that slightly imitates “After the Moment”, a delightfully carefree track off of Vallesteros, first LP, Idle Labor. The familiarity manifests a less upbeat resonance.
"If I Could" is melancholic, buzzing, and altogether quietly chaotic, with minor synth leads played against a tonal melody and enthusiastic percussive section. The juxtaposition is unsettling. "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide" is high-energy and ripe with ringing guitar riffs and barreling drums – perhaps to urge die-hard Idle Labor fans that this album is not so much a deviation but more so a departure. The string interlude and drum solo in the bridge could, ideally, serve to pay homage to fellow dreampop brothers Wild Nothing. The album concludes with “Still Fields (October 10, 1987)”. The metallaphone hits, calm piano and legato flute displace the listener to a different moment and place – an acoustic track that has a place on this album, overall it’s an enormous jump from the enthusiastic Indie Pop stylings given in their preceding full-length.
This album is a drastic change, welcome or not, from their catchy beginnings. Mechanical and introspective, this LP is the auditory equivalent of an existential contemplation– a peek inside the tumultuous and all-consuming life of an artist.
Nausea is out today via Captured Tracks.
by Emily Rees
Craft Spells West Coast Tour:
7/16 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Atrium
7/17 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
7/18 – San Diego, CA – The Hideout
7/19 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
7/20 – Los Angeles, CA - Part Time Punks at the Echo
White Reaper EP (Polyvinyl)
The most impeccable achievement White Reaper has made with their debut EP, White Reaper, resides in its comforting accessibility and stylistic ambitiousness. From Louisville, Kentucky, twin brothers Nicholas and Sam Wilkerson, and Tony Esposito emerge into the garage rock community with furiously spastic bopping drums, guitar progressions that John Dwyer would be privy to composing, and vocals that are eerily similar to a young Jack White.
White Reaper distinguishes their stylistic approach abruptly. Instead of peering out with tepidness, a redundant typifying quality with the Burger Records scene, the trio bombastically greets us with their album. They don’t facilitate a false sense of aesthetic, of the personality of the band, nor of themselves as individual musicians. They present to you a discretely placed intimacy within the whaling lyricism and slightly gaudy mode of guitar playing.
“Cool” is an uproarious track, and that is a blunt understatement. Though, the lyricism has a lingering immaturity. Pulsing with, “She’s so cool, she can’t even sleep at night.” Sonically, however, the track is varied. It doesn’t poses the stylistic sustenance of Garage Rock to be considered as such, and doesn’t bridge the gap over to enthusiastic punk. White Reaper creates an amalgamation of bop drop swaying melodies from 50s Rock N Roll, modern Garage, and 70s Punk. They resonate with each part and mesh the individual aspects together, creating a walking conversation within a ranging stylistic separation.
Transitionally, each song succeeds the other without pause. This is strenuous to achieve, especially doing so in a fluid and intelligible manner. The lead into “Funn” from “Cool” is raspy, like an aged singer warming up the voice. Thus, a spangling track fruitions into being. The album, though not diverse, accentuates versatility within the nuanced instrumentation. Brothering with “Funn”, “Half Bad” also beckons the enthusiastic tide of swooping guitar riffs, and playful harmonies. Nonchalant romanticism in the lyrics confines itself throughout the entire album, though not a digression from the compositional strength White Reaper possess. It serves an immature radiance that permeates the album unsettlingly.
The album proceeds to take wind with its spiraling, loquacious composition. Big, brooding, swinging, abrupt, “She Wants To” is the integral segue, from battered, bombastic compositions and nonchalant reminiscence. White Reaper drags us into the punk-ier aspects of their decadent debut. Though “Conspirator” is tonally brighter than Teenage Panzerkorps, it resonates as a subtle, unintentional, homage to the industrial punk from Europe. The wall of noise that culminates with a menacing tonal melody, which contemporaries such as Sexdrome, Var, Teenage Panzerkorps, and Iceage, creates an enigmatic tone bombarded with moderately intimidating lyricism and opaque composition.
Gracefully, unhinged, White Reaper continues their debut with yet another retrospection to the harsh, grinding, industrial intros and style of the Dutch and German contemporaries they are quasi compliments of. “Conspirator” is equally as nostalgic for the Minutemen, Fugazi, and Minor Threat days of hardcore punk, but let’s not delineate with the subtle industrial noise White Reaper draws out in their intros. The spastic spiraling whirlwind “Conspirator” harbors is followed up by a misplaced neo-pysch noise track that concludes the EP. “Ohh (Yeah)” is an unimpressive consequence of its precursors. Though not an irritating track to summarize a spectacularly fluid debut, it provides unsavory melodies and harmonies, both of which feel forced. This is a track that would work as a B-Side to a single.
The clash of noise, the redundantly endearing immaturity of the lyricism, and the overall tone of White Reaper have made this an intelligible attempt at a first release for Kentucky’s Reaper Boys. We look forward to what’s next in their repertoire and hopefully that includes exploring those carefully placed industrial noise punk intros.
White Reaper is out today via Polyvinyl.
by Nicholas Hodges
White Reaper Tour Dates:
06/24 – Seattle, Washington - Chop Suey *
06/25 – Portland, Oregon - Bunk Bar *
06/26 – Sacramento, California - Witch Room *
06/27 – San Francisco, California - Thee Parkside *
06/28 – Los Angeles, California – The Bootleg *
06/29 – Phoenix, Arizona - Rhythm Room *
06/30 – Tucson, Arizona – The Flycatcher *
07/02 – Austin, Texas - Holy Mountain *
07/03 – Dallas, Texas - Club Dada *
07/04 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Conservatory
07/05 – St. Louis, Missouri - Firebird *
* = w/ Young Widows
My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields announces new material in progress and an EP out Fall
Again, we are taunted by the words, more so thoughts, of Kevin Shields. The Irish Godfathers of Shoegaze gave unto the world in 2013 a 20 year follow up album, endearingly entitled M B V, the third LP from the ensemble of Shields, Butcher, Googe, and Ó Cíosóig. Shields has a tormenting modus operendi of divulging any information pertaining to My Bloody Valentine, which aslo happens to be one of the most revered and loved bands in this world.
Late last week, amid a Proper Ornaments show, he made a most rousing announcement. “Working on some new songs at the moment. We plan on going into the studio October or November time,” Shields stated to the NME. Colin Joyce of SPIN has noted, “Few further details are available at the moment.”
Well, whether it be Fall or another 20 years, it is thrilling that we are again in a world in which My Bloody Valentine are recording, Slowdive are touring, and JAMC are playing Psycho Candy live in its entirety. I guess all that’s left are for the Drop Nineteens to resurface, Chapterhouse to head Glastonbury, Pulp to be on TOTP, and The Hacienda to stir back into existence. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
by Nicholas Hodges
Album Review (Track By Track):
When I was 15, 5 years ago, I was a Freshman at a notoriously liberal all boys Catholic School. The school year began with an overwhelming, unrestrained, angst. Fortunately for me, I reemerged a band I once took for granted. A band who’s song was nailed to the whimsy of a 15-year-old in love with the 80s. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was not just an introduction to what would become my intense love for music, it was as well a commencement for my love and fascination of writing/reading poetry.
Ian Curtis, Peter Hooke, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris were Joy Division, a band who transcended the traditional variants of punk rock, No Wave, Disco, and Electronic music in the late 1970s. They created a genre that would become resonant, and a significant transformative experimentation for the succession of music from the 1980s onward. Postpunk was more than a genre, it became an enigmatic life style for those who played it and the patrons who were enthusiasts of it. Mancunians around began to make the most pivotal movement in music history. It would go on to define Shoegaze, Synthpop, Acid House, and many more musical genres. This was all in part, thanks to one band from Manchester, England and their debut release. In the immortal words of Tony Wilson, “This band being Joy Division”, this album being Unknown Pleasures.
From start to finish, Curtis draws upon the fanatical world of intimate desire, refuge inside the cerebral conundrum of normative life styles, and the dull, lurid, chaos of living inside the post World War II Industrial grounds of Manchester. The experimentation between electronic modulation and scattered atonal melodies beside menacing, subtle, harmonies would create the iconic and desired sound of the Post Punk era.
Unknown Pleasures starts with what would become the anthem of the entire genre. “Disorder” transcends the gritty, washed up, battery of punk and the subtle electronic growth of a Kreftwerk piece. It holds intimacy and delineates from complete stoicism. The break inside Curtis’s voice, being both riddled with quivering and a high pitch makes the track morbidly bright for somethings as chaotic as the juxtaposition of life tormented by relationships and death. Peter Hooke’s bass-line pulsates at the backdrop of Morris’s haste, light-hearted, yet drowning percussive section. Sumner’s guitar follows along with Hooke’s bass, making the song drag out and reminisce on each chord, fitting for a lovers quarrel.
"Day of the Lords" successes the intro, in an overwhelmingly opaque manner. It intrudes while Curtis desperately begs "When will it end?" The abruptness of the song pronounces the intimidation that alienation instills in Curtis, leading him to ask the very question of it’s conclusion. In a whole, the movement is a transformation over five minutes. Scrummaging for the next note, misunderstood perception embodies each moment the track leaves behind. The song wanders, losing itself as if it were an actual living body adventuring through a whirlwind of anxiety and trying to find closure. The mind disconnected from all the other joints, the nerve centers shutting down as the song proceeds.
Curtis begins to grow calmer, heavier. The slow tempo of “Candidate” harbors regret. The lyricism details a lurid fascination with people and a dependence on failed intimacy. The lost soul of the relationship inhibits the well being of the subject, mercilessly tearing at the misguided conceptualization of love. The instrumentation borders on No Wave, the only discernable bit of melodic resonance is Peter Hooke’s walking bass-line that speaks with Stephen’s percussion. The melody becomes intimidatingly dissonant, transitioning into the hopeful “Insight”.
A glossier track containing a pronounced lyrical hope through its portrayal of nostalgia. The counterbalance between Curtis’s hypnotic voice preaching about a time before, the forgotten loneliness of being in a relationship, is the boisterous jubilance of a minor synth pad and drawing guitar lick. Hooke’s bass call the bopping droplets of the deep beat. The chattering synth is among the few times in the album where the modular pad is an integral part of the song. It creates an icy atmosphere, an aesthetic that has cold desire. It grips onto the cusp of a hope and tears it away morbidly quick.
"New Dawn Fades" commences in a disorienting manner. It justifies the perplexing whispers of the synth with one of Hooke’s signature tonal bass-lines. Thrusting an urgency out of his lyricism, Curtis employs a heart wrenching plea. It is evocative of a mystery held wihtin the quarreling depths of boyish despair, a love note from Truffaut’s Antoine. Waling his mistakes about his current life, he goes back and forth with himself. The conversation culminates labored sighs, each punctuation noticeably heard. An exhale of restlessness, ambiguous plotting on Sumner’s menacing progression, no one knows where they are heading to. Stephen concludes the track with absolute certainty that this was the place and here it shall be ended.
A tribal, metallic, drum beat crashes into being as “She’s Lost Control” starts, unbroken and withered by “New Dawn Fades”. A frightening allegory of a young woman who is having an epileptic episode, Curtis draws in his fear through a haste in his vocals. The desire to be rid of the seen is apparent as he rushes with Sumner’s pulsating melody. The tracks atonal quality caresses the lament in Curtis’s terrifying depiction. The tracks fades into desolation, transitioning into a song that exemplifies alienation.
"Shadowplay" is the most versatile song in Unknown Pleasures. It’s brutish, blunt lyricism contains an air of cool and nonchalance. A detachement from the world and a haunting preface into a relationship gone astray. The city culminates into the growing intimacy, eating away the comfort and intrigue of both parties. Sumner embodies the direness with a guitar riff that juxtaposes ingenuity and tangible intimatacy. Though the instrumentation may be harsh, rhapsodic in parts, and blunt, it bares a tenacious elegance. It gives itself to the burning insanity of the city and the lovers quarrel. There is no back, there is only forward, or the shadows.
"Wilderness" takes the hand of despondencies insightful bickering. Curtis tumultuously exclaims the characteristics of the deafening lack of vivaciousness in his life. Morris holds the track carefully, galloping on his drums. The composition is perplexed and walks away. It doesn’t understand where to go or what to go towards. "Wilderness" permeates the album with a dizzying arrangement.
A more battered, commando like track comes into fruition. “Interzone”, clearly inspired by early Iggy Pop, urges the essence of fighting with oneself. It’s a torment living inside the mind that persists, always gnawing at the depth and overanalysis of a situation. The ticks from Sumner’s progression illustrates a ravenous reluctance for heated altercation. The harmonizing vocals bring about breakdown of the self and portray the horrifying nature of aggression.
Unknown Pleasures concludes with a simplistic composition. It’s menacing repetition haunts each lyrical break. Curtis doesn’t extend beyond “We were strangers.” Sustaining a profoundly eerie resonation, he concludes absolutely. The provocation of discomfort and weariness builds upon the monotone that stagnates experimentation, and life as it is. The album becomes foreign, it doesn’t want to remember itself. Curtis fades away, into the atmosphere of alienation, despondency, and isolation.
One of the most evocative and influential pieces of 20th century music became a pivotal movement. It harbored intimacy that later would go on to assist people in coping, make music that was to become even more evocative, and, overall, made you feel comfortably alone. This was an album of overwhelming desolation and insight. 35 years later, we all continue to walk in silence.
by Nicholas Hodges
Eddie Niguel “Life”
This is a new series we will be commencing daily, along with articles and interviews. Each day I will be taking one XLR8R single and writing up on it. The series will be entitled QR8R.
Eddie Niguel strikes the electro pop chord so closely to home that the groove can’t be any more permeable than a deep cut LCD Soundsystem or Octo Octa release. Hailing from Singapore, Electronica/House musician Eddie Niguel has graced us with a new single entitled “Life”, which can be currently streamed/downloaded on XLR8R. The track is a staggering 7 and half minutes of house and electro pop fusion. Niguel illustrates a vivid depiction of his style through the pronounced percussive sections, and bopping synth leads. A twist turner filled with verbose instrumentation, he submerges the vibrancy of “Life” into a decadent, enamoring adventure. Wompy, crashing, intrigue set for what could be along the line of a DFA release, Niguel juxtaposes the tenacious jubilance and harshness of Detroit House and euphoric Electro. Watch out for this man, his bangers bang and his production is on tee. Whatever you take from “Life”, at least dance.
by Nicholas Hodges